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The Local Library: 'A Safe Place' for Creative Self-Expression

Two area librarians – an artist and a writer -- are trying to get writing groups for teens off the ground in their towns

Teen Services Librarian Theresa Foster noticed early on in her job at the Barnegat Branch of the Ocean County Library that many of her teen patrons also happen to write.

“Because they are avid readers, they’re inspired,” said Foster, 28, of Tuckerton. “They showed me their stories and asked me to read them, and give them feedback,” said Foster.

Foster, who studied art and history in college, said she felt self-expression is something teens could use some help nurturing. “I am an artist, so I always think of writing like that — as a way that they have chosen to express themselves.”

“I just thought it’d be nice if they could get feedback about their words in a comfortable environment,” she said. “They could get support, and they could pick up new writing skills that they could not get maybe at school. I asked them all, if they take creative writing other than basic English, and they all told me ‘no.’ ”

Just a few miles to the south, Foster’s colleague, Courtney Nieddu at the Stafford branch, who also happens to dabble in writing, was thinking along the same lines.

“When I was in high school, writing was a way I felt I really could express myself,” said Nieddu, 26, a resident of Barnegat. “I am a reader above all, and I think that the ability to create something like that — a book, a story — is just such an amazing thing. A group for creative writers could let you explore anything that you want to express or think about, or trying to make a world better with. It just gives you safe space to do that.”

Foster and Nieddu started their jobs at the same time, a year ago, and soon felt the need to create and nurture a community for young writers.

“I started trying to run it last fall, I knew I really wanted to try to get it around NaNoWriMo,” said Nieddu.

(NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, is an online campaign that urges participants to complete a novel during one frenetic month of writing – namely, November – just for the fun of it).

“NaNo is just a super cool thing,” Nieddu said, “and I thought if I could get a group going around that, it would be pretty amazing. Also, NaNoWriMo provides so many resources for young writers.”

Nieddu started a Teen Writers’ Guild, which is supposed to meet on the last Wednesday of each month. The next meeting is on March 29th at 6:30 p.m. So far, Nieddu said, the attendance has been sporadic.

“A couple of times I had one person or another show up, but not really come back,” Nieddu said.

Still, she keeps trying to get the word out. 

“I am hoping that if this stays consistent, then someone might say, ‘oh, this is really neat,’ and even if they forget about it the next month, they might reconsider the following.”

Nieddu said. “I just figure if it’s out there, eventually it might get some attendance.”

Foster over in Barnegat, on the other hand, has been taking things more slowly. She is preparing to launch the group in the summer, when teens have more time and are perhaps more open to creativity.

“In July and August I’m going to be bringing in a librarian who works in Toms River, who is a writer and has published short stories,” Foster said, when asked about her plans to get a group going. “And hopefully once that’s established, I’d like to set up regular meetings where they don’t need us so much, and hopefully they can get support
from each other.”

For more information, call the Barnegat Branch of the Ocean County Library at (609) 698-3331 or the Stafford Branch at (609) 597-3381.

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